Being a Cs Mum Rocks! You literally had to go under a knife to birth your little one. How hardcore is that?? I say this because, in our society, mums who birth through a caesarean are often termed lazy or looking for an ‘easy way out’ if only they realize how much it hurts to do ANYTHING after a C-section. For all of the wonderful things that a C-section is, it may sometimes pose a challenge to successful breastfeeding. First off, let’s break down what happens during a C-section:
WHAT’S A C-SECTION?
A C-section is basically a surgical method of birthing a child. It is often performed when having a vaginal delivery is deemed unsafe such as prolonged labour, baby in a breech position, baby in distress or a mum who’s hypertensive. It is not uncommon to find women choose to have C-sections voluntarily. This is called an ‘elective CS’ while the former is ‘scheduled’.
It is becoming more and more common for mothers to be conscious during their C-section. The anaesthesia is often given through a spinal tap. This numbs you from your chest downwards. Your whole body may feel heavy and breathing may feel uncomfortable for a few minutes at first. An incision is made on the abdomen first and then the uterus to deliver your baby. In some cases, especially when a C-section is decided in an emergency, you may be totally unconscious during the procedure. In this case, you have been placed under general anaesthesia.
I had my son via CS and I was marvelled at how quick it was. I remember speaking to my aunt at 7:30 am just before I was wheeled in and by 8:00 am, I was calling to inform them my little one was here. The recovery time after a C-section is considerably longer understandably. Breastfeeding can occur soon afterwards. Here’s what you need to know:
BREASTFEEDING AND C-SECTIONS
You may be wondering why we’re focusing on breastfeeding after a caesarean. It’s because several studies have shown that mums who deliver via C-sections are less likely to initiate breastfeeding which in turn affects duration of breastfeeding. We also know that the more ‘medicated ‘your birth is, the more the chances of interference with breastfeeding.
First off, before and after your C-section, you will be given intravenous infusions. These infusions will be absorbed by you and your baby (before birth). This can affect the usual weight loss known to occur in the first few days with babies. Your nurse may feel like he has lost more weight than expected without accounting for the loss of these fluids and suggest an alternative feeding method. This can sometimes make mum feel like she isn’t producing any milk when in fact, your body is already secreting colostrum. These fluids can also cause some engorgement for you and can make latching difficult for your newborn
Second, the anaesthesia! For me, I remember being given my baby after I was wheeled out of the theatre. The hospital was very pro-breastfeeding and I was instructed to commence immediately. It all seemed so exciting! After that first feed, I and my newborn soon dozed off due to the medications and the anaesthesia I was given. The first 24 hours was kind of a blur. We were both groggy and trying to adjust to our new realities. The World Health Organisation recommends that breastfeeding be initiated within the first hour after delivery. This is often not achievable for a lot of CS mums. This can then cause a cascade of events leading to difficulties. This is especially true for mums who go under general anaesthesia.
Third, blood loss! Your body has just been through a trauma. You’ve been cut deep open and it takes your body sometime to recover from that kind of trauma. This may explain why your milk may come in a little slower than with a vaginal delivery. So what can you do about it?
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL INITIATION OF BREASTFEEDING
- This holds true for all mums. Support is crucial to breastfeeding success. Having a partner who’s onboard and family members who are willing to help with other stuff can make mama’s job easy. For example, my mum was with me all through my stay at the hospital. She helped with food and would sometimes hold baby away from my abdomen while breastfeeding. This helped us a lot.
- A baby-friendly hospital. Having hospital staff who are supportive of your decision to breastfeed can help facilitate breastfeeding. Even though your hospital is required to be pro-breastfeeding, informing them of your decision to do so can help affirm it. Your nurse can help with latching and pumping if there’s a need
- Skin to skin: yes, yes I know skin to skin can be difficult to do after a caesarean but it’s certainly not impossible. For those who don’t know what it is, it is simply placing your bare baby on your bare torso. Preferably in between your breast. Skin to skin has been shown to be helpful in facilitating breastfeeding. It promotes the release of oxytocin; the hormone for milk release. In the early days after your delivery, you’ll need all the oxytocin you can get. You may speak to your hospital staff about the possibility of placing baby skin to skin before the cord is cut. If your physician says it’s not possible, your partner can do it too. Skin to skin really helps to calm your baby and can make latching a less daunting task.
- Lots and lots of putting a baby to the breast. After you birth your child and the placenta, here’s what happens. Your pregnancy hormones; progesterone and oestrogen start to reduce and breastfeeding hormones; prolactin and oxytocin start to increase. This series of the event seems to be interfered with in mums who birth via C-sections causing a delay in milk coming in. one way to circumvent this is to put baby to breast as often as possible. This sends a message to your brain allowing your body to produce milk
- Trust me, you don’t want to have the weight of your newborn on your incision. It is a recipe for disaster! Rather than have your baby held in the cradle position, use the laid back technique or breastfeed in a reclined position.
- Lots of rest! Remember I said you’ve just been through trauma? Your body requires time to recover. You shouldn’t carry anything heavier than your newborn till your six-week check. Focus your energy on getting better and on breastfeeding. Thankfully you can breastfeed while lying!
If you have any further questions, please drop them in the comment box or send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .